Journalism vs. blogging: the present and the future

Journalism vs. blogging: the present and the future

Summary: With the rise of online media, from YouTube to Facebook, WordPress to the New York Times, journalism has expanded over the course of the last decade into a new era. "Journalism" may not be guaranteed work all of the time, but it is most certainly in my eyes one of the main focuses of future careers for students.

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With the rise of online media, from YouTube to Facebook, WordPress to the New York Times, journalism has expanded over the course of the last decade into a new era. "Journalism" may not be guaranteed work all of the time, but it is most certainly in my eyes one of the main focuses of future careers for students.

Dr. Vince Miller, lecturer in sociology, spoke to me about journalism and blogging. He teaches where I study, at the University of Kent, researching concepts of social networking, blogging and new-age media. Of all the people I could have spoken to, I trust his knowledge as one of the most influential thinkers in his field.

His latest journal article is available online to those with Athens, Shibboleth, SAGE or e-journal access, and for those without, an abstract of the text can be found here.

Citizen journalism hit the news when it was used against China to rebel against the strict regime of government. What is the difference between "blogging activist" and "citizen journalist"?

Well, I think that citizen journalism is a much broader topic of 'non-professionals' engaging in information collection, distribution and dissemination. This includes, for example, the Indy media movement and I suppose really could have even included aspects of 'community' media or journalism (as long as it was not done by professionals). I guess that 'blogging activism' would be one example of citizen journalism, but the two are not synonymous. Use of traditional websites, e-mail, chat rooms and forums could be seen as forms of citizen journalism outside blogging as well.

With hundreds of blogging websites available, can blogging and online journalism be the death of the good old fashioned newspaper journalism? 

A couple of years ago, Andrew Keen wrote a book called 'The Cult of the Amateur', in which he argued that the user-generated content of the internet, through things like blogging, YouTube and the like, were having a destructive influence on our culture by undermining what is true and false, undermining any notions of quality (or quality control), and blurring distinctions between fact, fiction, logic and opinion, the noteworthy and the banal.

I think to a certain extent he has a point. But it is hard to make that point without sounding elitist or like some sort of cultural conservative. But I seem to remember Jack White of the White Stripes, making a similar point once in an interview, when he was talking about the difference between music journalist reviewing albums (to use and old fashioned term), versus bloggers reviewing albums. He said that he found amateur reviews annoying because most of them had very little overall knowledge of music, and therefore could only really state their opinion within the narrow contexts of their tastes (for example 'the new White Stripes album does not rock as hard as the last one'). At least with a music journalist, you can assume that he/she has a large music collection, and some overall sense of where music has come from, and where it is going.

So it is more of an 'informed' opinion than some 15 year old kid writing on a blog. To your question, I suppose it is not necessarily the 'death' of old-fashioned journalism, but perhaps a transformation in three ways:

  1. A decline in the authority of the journalist as holding a superior or 'well informed' position vis-à-vis anyone else.
  2. A transformation in terms of where 'old-fashioned' journalism gets its stories and information from. A good example of that is the Clinton/Lewinski scandal, which originated from the Drudge Report; at the time a pretty disreputable gossip page.
  3. It reflects a fundamental shift from mass media to niche media. Within journalism, this means that instead of everyone being forced to watch a narrow number of news sources for a narrow selection of stories deemed significant. People can now seek out the news that they want to hear, from the sources they want to hear from. This leads to a much more Balkanised public sphere as people seek out what they want to hear, and blogger/journalists increasingly preach to the converted.For example, right wing nationalist bloggers comb the Internet for any stories related to certain ethnic minorities (not always the case, but as a generalisation) and feed them to a specific audience who are deliberately looking to confirm their prejudices. Similarly, anti-EU bloggers will publish any anti-EU story or rumour to support their cause without any desire for verification, explicitly for the purposes of motivating their political audience.

As a side note, strangely from my experiences on the web, I get the feeling that the lack of verification and professional obligation in blogging has further undermined the legitimacy of mainstream media journalists. As now, in my experience, many people who frequent more user-generated sources for news (both left and right leaning) now see mainstream media as untrustworthy and biased, but fail to recognise that in their own sources are similar, if not more so (I suppose because those sources speak to their prejudices more). This, however is my own opinion based on my experiences, and not to be considered a real academic argument...

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What, if any, is the difference between a journalist and a blogger? 

A journalist (ideally) has a professional responsibility to verify information, check sources, print 'facts' (as best as they can be defined), portray the story from different viewpoints, and at least have a pretence of being 'objective' (although objectivity in news is not really a burden in Britain, where biases are obvious and held up for everyone to see). To this end, what journalists write has gone through some sort of peer or editorial review process.

Bloggers, by contrast, have no such professional responsibility or obligation. They can, within certain legal limits, print what they want without any obligation to verify sources or separate fact from opinion. The only obligation they have (if even that), is to maintain their audience. I also think that blogging revolves around a certain intimacy between the writer and audience in a way that is different from mass journalism.

Microblogging has really taken off with services like and including Twitter. If blogging replaces newspaper journalism, can microblogging be another successor, or is quality better than quantity? 

Microblogging is a bit of a different case, I think, and builds much more on this idea of intimacy with the audience and among the audience. Barack Obama certainly used this well on his campaign (I was following him on Twitter). I don't think that microblogging will be the next step from blogging, but more of an offshoot, and more related to social networking than blogging.

Feel free to post your thoughts, comments, ideas, theories and experience; the more the merrier.

Topic: Browser

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14 comments
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  • I agree, but...

    I totally agree, as I write a couple of blogs.

    When I am writing, I am careful to make sure I get facts, when I am quoting facts, and basing my opinions on those facts. To combat the slants either way, I try to get something from the left, right, and if possible, the middle. Then, after stating the location of the information I have gotten, I will offer my opinion.

    example:

    1 USA Today - Dick Cheney still unrepentant about torture tactics

    2 Fox News - Dick Cheney gives reasons for use of waterboarding

    3 NY Times - Many are calling for full disclosure of torture tactics used in Guantanamo

    then my opinion - Simply because Cheney holds the title of VP does not mean he is above the law, and should be held responsible for illegal activities of any kind

    I try to write in this style all the time, carefully checking facts,and giving reasons for my opinions based on careful thought processes. Many who read the blog criticize one way or the other based on their views, but no one can say (or has said) I don't know of what I am speaking.

    This differentiates my offerings from others that simply say 'Cheney sucks!'

    The thing is, to my mind, the care and crafting is as telling as the message, and I believe that the reader can correctly infer that by that care some analysis was made and facts checked.

    Yet I don't ever call this journalism, as the reader in my case ALWAYS knows that my opinion will always be there. If is was journalism, I would be adopting a much more formal (and dry) style, without salting with my opinions.
    chrome_slinky@...
  • RE: Journalism vs. blogging: the present and the future

    When I see clips of the programming that Fox news puts out in the US, it's seems much more partisan than Sky News here in the UK. Esp.O Reilly who is a fine example of someone twisting the facts to fit his own agenda.

    BTW I dislike News Corp wherever they peddle it. So you're unlikely to win me over.
    V@...
    • So what should I conclude from that?

      Since you admit your bias, why do you bother commenting about Fox or O'Reilly?

      You wouldn't like what they say no matter what it is.

      I don't see how that approach has any value at all. All you get a label from those that don't agree and you're preaching to the choir otherwise.
      ron.cleaver@...
    • Does Sky News have sponsors?

      if so, then its a good guess that they spin any news that might tick off the people who support them.
      AllKnowingAllSeeing
      • Re: Do they have sponsors?

        Well if what you mean is

        'this programme is sponsored by blah blah blah'

        then yes.

        Also, they are dependent on advertising revenue.
        V@...
  • It's not so much *liking* what they say, but *believing* what they say.

    I don't mind not liking a story, hell I don't like much on the news anyway. (mostly miserable topics)

    But, if I just don't believe it because of very apparent 'spinning', then it undermines the integrity of the media outlet.

    Upholding public service standards, that's what I was comparing. The same news organisation in the US as in the UK, can apparently spin a story far easier than over here.

    News presenters aren't allowed to influence the news with personal bias. Fox fool their viewers with the 'fair and balanced' line, when it's glaringly obvious that it isn't.

    Oops, sorry folks! that was directed at Mr Cleaver.
    V@...
  • Sensing the truth

    I remember reading articles, back before social media, and feeling/wondering if the journalist, through some hidden agenda, was biased in some way. It was just a general sense had.

    I also remember watching sports where 'respected' journalists showed bias toward a team they favored, at times when they should have been neutral.

    I also remember reading articles from other professionals that rang true. Their words did not hint to one side or the other of the issue.

    The point I am making is that I'm attuned enough now to know if a 15 year old kid with a limited music collection has posted words of value or not. If not, I keep looking for more information. If so, I weigh his words in with other articles I read.

    The value in SM is in the quantity of information and the 'meta-opinion' that is revealed. I want it all - the comments of the trained professional journalist and everyone else.

    From all of them, I will make my decisions.
    LetterRep.com
    • Before Social Media? (Oh reeeeaaallaaaay?) @LetterRep

      The validation the author's writing will come via his authority or trust. I think that will depend on things like 1. previous writings; 2. other profiles at on other sites or blogs (linkedIN, twitter, facebook); 3. and the "blink" response you have as as reader, or your "general sense" response.

      But the main thing is if YOU care to read the post, trust the post or writer, validate the source, look up the author and check them out, and ULTIMATELY subscribe to the writer's other feeds or infostreams because you LIKE/LOVE/TRUST what they wrote or HATE what they wrote.

      I think that is the gauge, even with a comment on a blog, is do I CARE >> TRUST >> FOLLOW. And then the answer to each of those binary junctures becomes our personal response to a writer or article.
      John McElhenney
  • Blogging on ZDNet is who can get the most...

    talkbacks. It therefore is usually nothing more than someones opinion and is usually written to incite readers. I don't consider it journalism.
    bjbrock
    • You're quite right. But for how much longer can we say that? (nt)

      nt
      V@...
    • RE: bjbrock

      Trust me, you're way off mark ;)
      zwhittaker
  • fact checking, traditional and online

    It takes repeated mistakes before an agency like the
    NY Times even admits to their own lack of fact-
    checking (French Mayor's Letter, Jayson Blair, etc),
    so I'm not sure traditional media is any more valid
    than non-professionals.

    At least with bloggers, you know there's an agenda,
    and that it may not be accurate. We used to believe
    in newspapers and newscasts. No longer. We do our
    own fact checking now.
    coffeeshark
  • RE: Journalism vs. blogging: the present and the future

    [i]...the Drudge Report; at the time a pretty disreputable gossip page.[/i]

    What does the distinguished professor mean, "at the time?" It's no different now, except perhaps less notorious.






    :)
    none none
  • Nice Examination of Blogging and Microblogging

    Here is what I consider the heart of the post: "A journalist (ideally) has a professional responsibility to verify information, check sources, print ???facts??? (as best as they can be defined), portray the story from different viewpoints, and at least have a pretence of being ???objective??? (although objectivity in news is not really a burden in Britain, where biases are obvious and held up for everyone to see). To this end, what journalists write has gone through some sort of peer or editorial review process.

    "Bloggers, by contrast, have no such professional responsibility or obligation. They can, within certain legal limits, print what they want without any obligation to verify sources or separate fact from opinion. The only obligation they have (if even that), is to maintain their audience. I also think that blogging revolves around a certain intimacy between the writer and audience in a way that is different from mass journalism."

    And if the writing is awful and the author ignorant they may still have a circle of influence but it will most likely be limited to their like-minded fans. Thus as Jack White laments the amateur, ???the new White Stripes album does not rock as hard as the last one,' coming from a buddy with similar tastes in music, this would pretty much sum it up for me and I'd hit iTunes.

    I look forward to finding the full article you refer to.

    Thanks,
    @jmacofearth (on twitter)
    John McElhenney